It’s official. The holiday season is here, and it’s a time we should thoroughly enjoy. So, where do we begin if we want happy and healthy holidays?
Having Healthy Holidays is Possible
The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time of celebration and positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude, and high spirits. However, this time of year may be quite stressful for those who need more time and money or become caught up in the season’s excesses. It can also be difficult for those faced with a chronic illness or recent loss. Here are my top 5 tips for having a happy and healthy holiday.
1 Commit to a Spending Plan
First, create a spending plan for your holiday shopping. Next, instead of buying a gift for each person in the family, consider drawing names, with each person listing a few desired items within a specific price range. This can simplify gift exchange by providing a gift that is truly wanted and within your budget. Healthy food items can make excellent gifts (see next tip).
2 Consider Giving Healthy Food Items
Show that you are health conscious by giving a food item with a short note about why it’s healthy. Wrap the item with decorative paper and bows, or use food tins. These are great gifts to have handy, especially when you need to give an “unexpected” gift. You may have to research, but that shows your commitment to health. Here are some ideas:
- Organic dark chocolate bar with a note about the benefits of chocolate
- Homemade fruit preserves loaded with antioxidants instead of sugar
- Homemade dehydrated apple chips with cinnamon (a healthy snack)
- Organic coffee beans with a note about coffee’s nutritional benefits
- Holiday cookies (oatmeal or coconut macaroons) made with half the sugar and more fiber
- A glass water bottle with a note about the importance of hydration
- Homemade salsa and a bag of organic corn chips
- Here is a great healthy recipe to bring to a holiday gathering: Shrimp Dip
3 Limit Alcohol and Sugar-filled Beverages
Moderate amounts of alcohol may temporarily relieve stress and increase enjoyment, but research shows that alcohol consumption can trigger overeating. The holidays can also be a time for high-sugar beverages such as eggnog, hot chocolate, and apple cider. Create some “mocktails” with seltzer water and fresh fruit for a low-calorie, tasty, and antioxidant-filled alternative. Make hot chocolate with unsweetened almond milk and raw cacao.
Instead of starting every day with a coffee, try a glass of warm water and add the juice from half of a lemon before your coffee. This is a great way to jump-start your metabolism and rehydrate after sleep. Staying well-hydrated is critical to staying healthy through the holidays.
4 Be Physically Active for Healthy Holidays
Take advantage of every chance to move more during the holidays. This is when workouts often suffer, and most people think, “I’ll start fresh after New Year’s.” Take advantage of online workouts in your home or consider starting a walking program, setting a goal for daily steps. (Try my Just Walk 10K a day program – it also makes a great gift.)
If you want to maintain health momentum during the holidays and be ahead of the rest on New Year’s Day, then consider the following:
- Exercise early in the morning to avoid interference with holiday obligations that may occur later in the day.
- Maintain regular exercise, even if you have to decrease your regular workout schedule by one workout per week.
- When wrapping gifts, do it standing around a large table, which expends more energy than sitting.
- Put on some holiday music and dance whenever possible.
- Cooking and cleaning are great ways to increase activity.
- Take a 10-minute power walk around your neighborhood after a meal.
- If you cannot avoid missing a workout, do some exercises at home that use your body weight, such as push-ups, jumping jacks, marching in place, or jumping rope.
5 Set Realistic Goals for the New Year
What is it that you want to accomplish in the new year? Saving money, creating an exercise plan, reading or listening to a certain number of books, making your bed every morning, walking the dog regularly, improving your wardrobe, working with a charity, engaging in regular self-care, cooking healthy, taking an art class, learning a new skill – whatever is it, be sure to set a realistic goal and pick just one or two things. Make it stick and commit to your goals. Small changes over time can lead to more permanent results.
Make Immune Health a Priority
This is when all the season’s excesses affect our immune system. This includes stress, lack of sleep, sunshine, and activity, too much sugar, wheat, and alcohol, and a decrease in vegetable intake. Laugh often since daily laughter is related to a boost in immune function.
Lastly, remember that the holidays should be joyous. Don’t sweat the small stuff and strive for progress, not perfection. Be grateful.